Check back soon for more blogs and news.
Launching Disability.Inc. – Our past, present and what the future holds
The business services department of WECIL has recently gained a new life of its own and been rebranded as Disability.Inc. From our beginnings in 2016 to the launch of our new identity in 2022, we have been providing user led guidance and support to local authorities, public and private sector organisations for years, and there is an exciting future ahead for Disability.Inc.
Where Business Support Services began
WECIL was set up in 1995 as a Disabled people’s user led organisation, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the business department was conceptualised. WECIL’s Business Support Services was designed to challenge the barriers that Disabled people face in the workplace, and help make workplaces more inclusive and accessible. Six years ago we took over ADWUK (Action on Disability in Work UK) who had piloted Support Services for Disabled staff at UWE; we renamed the programme WorkAssured and this became our first social enterprise contract which helped organisations to provide accessibility support for their Disabled staff. Meanwhile we landed the West of England Workscontract delivering Disability Equality Training to providers and partners in the Southwest
We conducted our first access audit in 2017 for Southmead Development Trust, and this accessibility support expanded by more than double each year; we completed 3 audits in 2018, 7 in 2020, 15 in 2021 and we are looking to hit 30 by the end of 2022. After this first audit 5 years ago, the next step was to fine tune our offering to businesses, which we achieved with the help of Business Development Support from Balfour Beatty in 2019. This was a period of huge growth for us and we developed our marketing strategy, established our customer and market segmentation and expanded our services to include bespoke training, Accessibility Support and Consultancy to help incorporate inclusivity into organisations in as many ways as we could.
We incorporated Bristol Physical Access Chain (BPAC) in 2018-19, a team of volunteers with lived experience as Disabled people working for the council who were consulted on all public developments in Bristol, which became WECIL’s Access and Inclusion Team (WAIT) who support us to conduct our audits and are consulted in decision making across the West of England and beyond. The name change helped secure WAIT as part of WECIL and was a collaborative exercise with WAIT members.
2020 saw the COVID-19 pandemic bring a variety of challenges and opportunities to Business Services. The challenge was working with Disabled people that were clinically vulnerable, and the closure of many organisations also meant that training requests dropped off. However, we saw an increase in the demand for access audits; with the closure of many premises, businesses saw the opportunity to improve their accessibility whilst buildings were empty and without interrupting normal day to day business. It was positive to see businesses prioritising accessibility when they had the chance to slow down and reflect and we saw a range of enquiries coming through – from making businesses COVID safe to making reasonable adjustments for Disabled people both working from home and on return to the office when restrictions eased.
It was in 2021 that we reestablished our partnerships and were able to carry out a lot of the work from these requests. Since then we have only got busier and this year we have been able to reflect on who we are and what we are doing as a department, which led to our rebranding process. We wanted to make a distinction between Business Support Services as a social enterprise and WECIL as a charity, and decided that Business Support Services deserved an identity of its own, one that was unique but still connected with WECIL’s branding.
As part of the rebranding process we held focus groups with our business customers, trustees, WAIT members and department volunteers to ensure that the lived experience of Disabled people was at the heart of our new identity. Branding and naming workshops with Garrett Creative helped to clarify our purpose and offering – to create an inclusive society and to centre Disability rights in businesses and the workplace. Together we explored different names and landed on Disability.Inc.
Our shiny new brandmark uses the circle motif and a range of colours to represent inclusivity and clearly link the sub brand to WECIL as our parent charity, visually echoing their main logo. The circular formation of Disability.Inc.’s logo represents community and support and this visual language has been continued throughout the illustrations which bring the brand to life through character and environment. Our website is signposted on the main WECIL site, but Disability.Inc now has its own webpage to mark out our distinct identity.
We launched the new face of Disability.Inc at Access All Areas this year to great success. Since the launch we have had more discussions about partnerships with organisations, our marketing channels have opened up and driven more traffic to the website and the reaction has been extremely positive.
This year has been incredibly successful, and we have diversified our access services beyond physical access to include event Q&As for hybrid and online accessibility and guidance documents. We continue to build our trusted partnerships with organisations like Burges Salmon, Watershed and We The Curious, and next year we plan to develop our partnership offering and strategic relationships. We would like to introduce some sort of access or inclusive mark or stamp to act as recognition that businesses are making progress with their accessibility.
We have started to explore digital audits with We The Curious, and we are looking to expand in this space and develop our offering to include audits of businesses whole digital presence including online ticketing, digital systems and any interactive screens. We would like to be able to offer paid opportunities to Disabled people in our WAIT team and to expand our bank of lived experience facilitators and trainers. We plan to be in the National Register of access consultants to have more of an impact in public and private developments and influence policy making. Most importantly, we will continue to offer our services and improve the quality to help create an inclusive society for all Disabled people.
In the midst of a cost of living crisis and uncertain financial future, it is more important than ever that Disability.Inc. as WECIL’s social enterprise arm can continue to fund and support the incredible services that the charity delivers for the Disabled community. With a lack of certainty around funded projects, being as self-sustaining as we can is crucial and Disability.Inc. is dedicated to putting back our profits into WECIL.
Is your organisation equipped to support Disabled people? Is your organisation accessible and inclusive? Do you need help with your access and inclusion agenda? To discuss partnering with us at Disability.Inc. please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.